News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Father Charged With Theft in N.H. Residence Case

A New Hampshire man who sent his four boys to schools outside the district where they lived has been charged with theft by deception and faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

The indictment accuses Paul Dutile of giving officials of the Pemi-Baker Regional School District the false impression that the Dutiles already lived within district boundaries. It says he owes more than $1,000 in tuition.

Mr. Dutile enrolled his sons in the Pemi-Baker schools at the beginning of the 1995-96 school year when the family lived in Bridgewater, which is in the Newfound Regional district. The family has since moved to Plymouth, inside Pemi-Baker lines.

Mr. Dutile, a barber who also owns some apartments in Plymouth, said he has already paid about $12,000 in tuition and still owes about $6,000.

"We did not set out to deceive the school," Mr. Dutile said in an interview, adding that the Pemi-Baker district's sports program is what attracted them to the school system.

John True, superintendent of the 2,500-student Pemi-Baker district, said the school system hired an investigator to find out where the family lived and then told Mr. Dutile repeatedly to pay the tuition or remove his children.

Student With Midol Returns

Nine days after she was suspended for having Midol tablets in school, a 13-year-old honors student from Fairborn, Ohio, returned to class last week after her father agreed to send the teenager to a drug-evaluation program.

Erica Taylor, who accepted a package of the over-the-counter menstrual-pain medication from another student last month, was disciplined under the district's drug and alcohol policy.

The policy states that all students must go to the nurse's office if they need medication and that they must have a parent's permission.

The 8th grader from Baker Junior High School would have faced an 80-day expulsion if her parents had not agreed to send her for a chemical evaluation, district officials said.

Joy Paolo, a spokeswoman for the district, said the rules were necessary to shield the 6,200-student district from legal liability.

Fla. District Sues Architect

The Broward County, Fla., school board is suing a local architectural firm, blaming it for leaky roofs and other problems with nine schools it designed in the early 1990s.

School officials say the cost of school repairs will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"There are classrooms that are not usable or only partly usable," said Robert Manne, a lawyer for the Broward district.

A lawyer for the Miami Lake architectural firm of Shrum, Ali & Associates has notified the district that the company will countersue, claiming that the accusations are "slanderous and malicious."

"We've asked the district to show us what went wrong, and I'll be more than happy to negotiate," said Khaled Ali, the firm's president. "They haven't done that."

Study Cites Smoking Dangers

Even a few puffs on a cigarette each day can stunt a child's lung development, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine has found. Girls tend to be more vulnerable to the effects than boys are, even though boys tend to smoke more cigarettes, said the study, conducted by researchers at several Boston-area hospitals.

Young women may have increased sensitivity to smoking because their air passages tend to be more susceptible than those of boys, said the researchers, who studied the effects of smoking on more than 10,000 10- to 18-year-old boys and girls over a 15-year period.

The study's results are yet another reason to urge young people not to start smoking, the researchers said. Among smokers in the United States, 71 percent reported that they sampled their first cigarette before they turned 19, notes the study in the journal's Sept. 26 issue.

Students Get To Sleep In

The Edina, Minn., school district has pushed back the starting time for its high school in response to research about adolescents' need for more sleep.

This year, classes at Edina High School start at 8:30 a.m., rather than 7:25 a.m. School ends at 3:10 p.m. instead of 2:05 p.m.

The switch was prompted by the Minnesota Medical Association, which in 1994 wrote to every district in the state to publicize research showing that adolescents need more sleep than children or adults. ("Too Little, Too Late," Oct. 11, 1995.)

Cutting back on sleep to get to school early, the group warned, could lead to sleep deprivation and interfere with learning. So far, Edina officials say, theirs is the only district in the state to heed the doctors' advice.

Vt. Town Fights for Tuition

A Vermont town that has proposed paying tuition for students to attend religious schools will ask a superior court this week to force the state education department to release $170,000 in state aid.

State education officials decided over the summer to withhold the money following the proposal by the Chittenden school board to give parents the option of sending their children to parochial high schools, according to William J. Reedy, the department's deputy commissioner. ("Vt. District Provides Latest Test in Battle Over Religious Vouchers," Sept. 18, 1996.)

Following a longstanding practice in Vermont, the town, which has no high school, pays for its roughly 95 high-school-age students to go to other public or private nonsectarian schools.

Late last month, Chittenden voters rejected a proposed $1.8 million school budget for the third time.

Judge Rejects Little Rock Bid

A federal judge has rejected a bid by the Little Rock, Ark., school district to be released from court oversight of its desegregation efforts.

Faced with the loss of special state desegregation subsidies next year, the 24,500-student district had argued that it had met most of its obligations under an agreement approved by the federal court in 1989.

U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright essentially concluded that almost wasn't good enough. In a ruling late last month, the judge said the district had fallen short in "many aspects of the plan."

District officials said they may ask for a new evidentiary hearing.

Coca-Cola Doubles Gift

The Coca-Cola Co. will double the endowment of its foundation to a total of $50 million in a display of renewed support for precollegiate and higher education.

The Atlanta-based soft drink giant pledged in 1989 that it would contribute $50 million to education during the 1990s. Earnings from the endowment enabled the company to reach that goal last year.

The Coca-Cola Foundation has given grants to more than 200 colleges and universities. Many have supported partnerships with schools and teacher training.

Teacher Says Speech Curbed

Claiming she was fired for inviting students to a rally sponsored by a left-wing political group, a New York City high school teacher has filed a lawsuit accusing the city's school board of violating her right to free speech.

Mary Lonergan, a 45-year-old social studies teacher at Prospect Heights High School in Brooklyn, told a local newspaper that she lost her job because she invited students on a trip to the annual May Day rally in Washington.

The trip was sponsored by the Progressive Labor Party Flatbush Youth Club, a self-described left-wing organization.

David Golub, a spokesman for the board, said Ms. Lonergan was denied tenure, not fired. He said the district does not use political or religious criteria to assess performance.

Ms. Lonergan, who filed suit last month, could not be reached for comment.

Spec. Ed. Student Plays Ball

A 20-year-old high school student with Down syndrome played in his first interscholastic football game last week after the Colorado High School Activities Association relaxed its age restrictions.

The governing body last month amended its bylaws--which allow high school athletes to compete until age 19--to permit Gabriel Lane, a senior at Greeley Central High School, to compete in interscholastic football and swimming this school year.

Under the revised rules, the association's commissioner will grant waivers on a case-by-case basis.

Federal special education law guarantees a free public education to age 21 for students with disabilities. But the state boards that govern interscholastic sports have been reluctant to allow older students to compete.

Vol. 16, Issue 06

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